Inslee tours Ledgewood slide area; fundraiser nets $10,000

Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee talks with Island County Emergency Manager Eric Brooks during a visit to the Ledgewood disaster site Saturday.  - Nathan Whalen / Whidbey News-Times
Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee talks with Island County Emergency Manager Eric Brooks during a visit to the Ledgewood disaster site Saturday.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen / Whidbey News-Times

Ten days after Ledgewood was rocked by an enormous landslide, the tiny Central Whidbey development was visited by Gov. Jay Inslee Saturday and a host of other state and local elected officials.

The troupe that toured the neighborhood included Congressman Rick Larsen, a Second District Democrat; Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor; all three Island County commissioners and Coupeville Town Councilman Bob Clay.

A handful of county and utility officials were present as well to help provide information.

Residents said they were happy so many government representatives were able to make it down and see the devastation first hand, though some can’t help but wonder whether it would result in actual assistance.

“It was interesting but I’m not sure what will come of it,” said Jan Wright, president of the Ledgewood Beach Property Owners Association.

Wright is  hopeful the opportunity will serve as an educational experience, helping elected officials to make informed decisions and fairly distribute any available assistance to those affected.

“There are needs there and they needed to be seen,” Wright said.

“This is a big deal,” she said.

On March 27 at about 4 a.m.,  more than 1,000 feet of bluff collapsed between Fircrest Avenue and Driftwood Way.

The event destroyed one home, left five others uninhabitable, and took out a large section of Driftwood Way.

Seventeen homes, including the one destroyed, were cutoff and inaccessible other than by foot for nearly a week.

Vehicle access was restored after county road crews built an emergency road.

The devastation was not lost on Inslee.

“I think it’s the largest movement of earth since the Mount St. Helens eruption,” Inslee said.

“We want to look for every possible way we can help the Whidbey community.”

Eric Brooks, emergency manager for the Island County Department of Emergency Management, was also present and he said the governor was “very supportive” and interested in finding ways to help.

At this point, however, financial assistance will be hard to come by.

The federal Small Business Administration does offer low interest loans but only if specific qualifications are met.

In this case, 25 homes would have had to sustain 40 percent damage, Brooks said.

The county would also have to meet a threshold of $9.2 million in expenses — that doesn’t include private property damage —  to qualify for funding assistance.

So far, the county isn’t any near that, he said.

“We’re going to continue to look for more options,” Brooks said.

Affected residents may benefit from how the event is eventually classified by experts.

A “landslide” and a “geological event” are judged differently and the determination could dictate coverage by homeowners insurance companies, he said.

For some, it’s likely an argument in semantics.

For example, Wright characterized the event as “massive,” “geologic” and “enormous.”

It will have long-term ramifications on not just the community but it will provide invaluable information to other slide-prone areas around Puget Sound as well, Wright said.

No matter how it’s classified, this was a major event and residents will appreciate any help they can get.

“We don’t need the Cadillac, we just need something to get around in,” Wright said.


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